Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 29, 2014

Bang for the buck — Legalizing fireworks has benefits

— West Virginia residents honor a long-standing tradition every year when the Fourth of July approaches. They journey into neighboring Ohio, head down Interstate 77 to the Carolinas or travel to Tennessee so they can buy the dazzling part of many Independence Day celebrations — big, bright exploding fireworks.

These staples of Fourth of July celebrations are currently illegal in West Virginia. Firecrackers and skyrockets are prohibited. People who crave fireworks for their celebrations have to circumvent the law by going across state lines to places where they can spend their money on fireworks. The only fireworks legally available to West Virginia and Virginia residents are fireworks fountains and sparklers, so people wanting more bang for their bucks head south. Money that could have been spent locally ends up elsewhere.

 Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, submitted a bill during West Virginia’s last legislative session that would have allowed the state’s citizens to buy and use fireworks such as Roman candles, rockets, firecrackers, shells and cakes. Other legislators have introduced similar bills during past sessions, and Hall’s bill is just as good an idea. The bill did not pass this year, but Hall hopes to try again when the next session arrives.

West Virginia’s residents have been buying and using fireworks for years, and laws prohibiting their use have not been working. The sight and sound of exploding fireworks continues well after the Fourth of July.

Clifford Rotz, a retired chemical engineer who helped Hall draft the proposed legislation, has maintained that the use of fireworks by individuals has become increasingly safer over the years, and he maintains that national statistics bear this out.

There is no reason why responsible adults cannot be trusted with fireworks. Fireworks are dangerous if they are used irresponsibly, and children should not handle them without adult supervision. Safety measures should be used to help ensure that fireworks do not start structure fires or forest fires, and they should not be used when the risk of fire, such as during dry weather, is high. The use of fireworks should be regulated.

Fireworks should be legal in West Virginia if safety measures are taken. A fireworks safety fee could be used to help fund the state’s fire departments and pay for the State Fire Marshal Office’s enforcement efforts. If the taxes stay at a rate that makes West Virginia’s fireworks competitive with those sold in neighboring states, fireworks users will not feel that they must travel hundreds of miles from home for their supplies. This will mean more money staying in the state’s economy.

Legalization of exploding fireworks in West Virginia is worth considering. Fireworks are here already, so the state should benefit financially from the taxes generated from fireworks’ sales. If West Virginians will enjoy fireworks responsibly, there is no reason why they cannot buy fireworks at home. The legal sale of fireworks in West Virginia could benefit the state and the people who love fireworks on their Fourth of July.

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